Big 12 Officiating Reforms Worth Imitating

The addition of instant replay was the most important idea for college football officiating in recent years. While nothing can completely ensure missed calls won't affect the outcome of games, replay gives teams a safety net to rectify some errors. It's easy to forget that replay wasn't originally enacted for all of Division I.

The Big Ten took the risky step first, implementing replay for a season in their conference and showing it could be done effectively without prohibitive costs. Another conference has stepped to the forefront with an important policy change this season. The Big 12 has taken a step with their officials which other conferences would be wise to emulate.

College football fans have always wondered about the impact of officials being affiliated with one conference. Sometimes crews made bad calls that seemed to favor the team from their league, like the infamous ACC crew in the 2003 UF/FSU game or the Pac-10's refs basically stealing a win for Oregon against Oklahoma in 2006. In other games, most infamously the Michigan/Nebraska Alamo Bowl in 2005, officials from one conference seemed to be unable to handle a game played by different teams than they were used to seeing. Other controversies revolved around whether officials had personal or business connections to schools or their fanbases which might affect their judgments.

The Big 12 has decided to take the first step in dismantling the conference oriented system of officiating. This season they're mixing in officials from four other conferences to their existing pool of referees. The Austin American-Statesman reports other conferences like the ACC and Big Ten have refused to do so to this point. If the WAC, Mountain West, Conference USA and Southand conference referees turn out to do a solid job on Big Twelve games, perhaps other leagues will follow suit and diversify their pools of officiating talent after all.

Steve Spurrier has mused previously that college football would be better off if it had a commissioner who could standardize the rules on academic expectations and discipline for every school. We're not going to get that anytime soon, but anything which can get the people who enforce the rules on the field closer to a uniform standard is a good idea. Hopefully, like with instant replay, one conference's willingness to take a bold step will get the game closer to that goal.

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